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Friday, January 30, 2009

State dairy producers still expanding, adding jobs

By Jennifer Sereno
Quick: name a critical Wisconsin industry that is a) looking to expand; b) adding jobs; and c) not seeking any bailout money during these challenging economic times.

If you said the dairy industry, you'd be right. At a two-day conference in Green Bay hosted by the Dairy Business Association of Wisconsin, the industry's optimism shone in sharp contrast to the bleak mood pervading board rooms and the halls of state government.

More than 450 dairy operators, industry vendors, animal health and nutrition experts and environmental consultants gathered at Lambeau Field on Jan. 28-29 to focus on the competitive opportunities for the industry. According to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, Wisconsin's dairy industry generates $20.6 billion a year for the state's economy and accounts for more than 40 percent of the 420,000 jobs in the agricultural sector.

Laurie Fischer, executive director of the Dairy Business Association of Wisconsin, said she believes that impact will grow as more of her members implement major expansions.

"Wisconsin's economy benefits from dairy businesses of all sizes, but among our larger producers, there is a strong desire to expand in order to continue competing both nationally and internationally," Fischer said. "Economies of scale with the larger farms allow for greater investments in environmental technology, cow comfort, energy efficiency and the skilled workforce needed to manage these businesses."

The state is now home to at least 10 dairy farms that milk 3,000 to 5,000 cows, while other states such as California are home to farms milking 15,000 to 20,000 cows safely and within environmental regulations. Wisconsin's regulatory framework for the dairy industry was a focus of discussion at the industry conference, where owners and industry operators shared tips on planning and executing farm expansions.

Greg Squires, manager of Dairy Enterprise Services and a national consultant to the industry, told attendees one of the best-planned expansions he has been involved with required about 2 1/2 years of work before the first cow was milked. Producers need to take into account the time it will take to gain as many as 30-plus public permits and approvals, depending on the project.

David Crass, a partner in the Madison office of law firm Michael Best and Friedrich, said the complex and changing nature of environmental and other regulations means producers considering an expansion need more detailed research than ever before. In Wisconsin, farms with more than 700 cows are held to the highest regulatory standards and must carefully document their impact on air, water, traffic and soils and submit a detailed nutrient management plan for manure application.

John Roach, an industry consultant from Seymour who develops nutrient management plans, said the state Department of Natural Resources requires plans to include soil monitoring to ensure that groundwater and surface water remain protected. Large farms also must provide detailed engineering documentation regarding construction of manure and wastewater management and storage facilities.

Fischer said members of the Dairy Business Association welcome a regulatory environment that is timely, predictable and transparent. The association is currently working with DNR to expedite the permit process so that producers can better plan their expansion timetable and get down to the business of hiring and training workers to care for the larger herd sizes.

"Wisconsin's dairy producers are eager to invest in the future and in doing so, create very real benefits for the environment and for our rural communities," Fischer said. "Today, the resiliency of the dairy industry is a bright spot in our economy and our producers strongly believe there is even greater potential in the years to come."

-- Sereno, former business editor of the Wisconsin State Journal, is a senior manager at Wood Communications Group in Madison. E-mail jenny.sereno@wcgpr.com or call (608) 770-8084.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Building a business wardrobe from scratch

By Mitch Bram
As I write this Thursday, it's -12 degrees outside with the promise of -27 this evening with wind chills as low as -45.

This is Mother Nature's way of making sure you have all been paying attention to my columns these past couple of months. Aren't you all so glad that we covered the basics of dressing well – even in sub-zero temperatures -- back in November? That's a hint as to where to find my suggestions if you are freaking out right now.

Well, let's get to it shall we? The question this month comes from one of my loyal male readers. "A lot of things are on sale now...if somebody were to buy a business wardrobe from scratch and had $1,500 to spend, how would you suggest that they do it?"

That is a great question, deserving of an equally great answer. The canned used-car-salesman answer would be, "You spend the $1,500 with me of course!" But, for better or worse, and to your excitement or dismay, I will not be taking the easy way, or "cheesy" way out (Get it, Wisconsin ...Cheese land?).

I'm going to play out two scenarios for you. The first will pertain to the gentleman who's looking to build a business dress wardrobe. The second will focus on the person aiming at the business-casual wardrobe. Each will be listed below with the key items that will be the most useful as first additions. Once we spend the $1,500 and get past the foundational basics, move up the ladder and start making some real coin so we can move to THE NEXT STEP (me!).

Scenario 1: The Business Dress Wardrobe

(2 or 3) Conservative suits. This means navy or charcoal...no black! Think simple stripes, textured solids, nothing too flashy.

(4 to 6) Dress shirts. Look for whites, blues, ecru (off white), with some texture or possibly faint stripes.

(4 to 6) Ties. This is where you can have some fun. Make sure to bring the colors in the tie to match with at least the color of your shirt, suit, or stripe or pattern in your suit.

(2) Belts. Black and a version of brown. Cordovan (Burgundy), chili, or dark brown will work nicely. Just steer clear of chestnut (light tan) until we get to ... THE NEXT STEP.

(2) Pairs of Shoes. You guessed it ... always be sure that your belt matches your shoes -- every time.

(6 to 8) Pairs of Socks. Go solid or fancy, whichever you prefer. Just be sure to match your socks to the color of slacks/suit you are wearing.

Scenario 2: The Business Casual Wardrobe

(1 to 2) Blazers / sport coats. A navy or black blazer is a must. If you're going with a sport coat, be sure that the pattern isn't too loud and has enough colors in the pattern as to be worn with different varieties of trousers.

(4 to 6) Dress slacks. Black, medium gray, camel tan, and medium brown are my four starter favorites. This combination will give you the most flexibility.

(4 to 6) Dress / sport shirts. Sport shirts can be worn with or without a tie depending on the circumstances and can be worn with or without a blazer or sport coat.

(2 to 4) Ties. Not an absolute must but can be worn with a dressy shirt and your blazer or sport coat or with a sport shirt on occasion.

(2) Belts. The same rules apply as above in Scenario 1.

(2) Pairs of Shoes. Ditto. See above.

Some of you might be saying that it's impossible to purchase everything on a $1,500 budget. I have worked for Boston Store, Macy's, S&K Menswear, and now Tom James. Depending on your store or outlet of choice you may be able to piece together twice or three times the quantity of items I mentioned...but as they say, "You Get What You Pay For." I would love to work alongside you at accomplishing your "next step" goals.

-- Mitch Bram is the director of sartorial splendor with Tom James Clothing in Madison. He'll be working toward building a more Fashion Forward Wisconsin by sharing his advice and expertise on the subject of proper dress.

E-mail your fashion questions to info@wisbusiness.com or call Mitch directly at 608-278-0391 or 608-712-6499.


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